Omaha – David Calcutt


I walked the length
of Omaha Beach
where the killing took place

there were old men
in baseball caps smiling
in front of the monument

a woman crouching
at the sea’s edge
pressing her hand
into the wet sand

a man who sat cross-
legged on a stone
eyes closed, palms out
in meditation or prayer

as I walked on past
the lines of sea-blackened
wooden piles

sticking up out of the sand

sandpipers skittered
across the beach
and the grey waves
foamed and broke
on the rocks

it was a day of wind
and sunlight
and shadows that flickered
along the sidelines

and up on the terrace café
my dead son
was sitting at a table
eating and drinking
and having a good time

and beyond him
the dark blue line
of the horizon
ran straight and clean
and was empty of ships.

David Calcutt is a playwright, poet and fiction writer. Many of his original plays and
adaptations have been broadcast on BBC radio, and his plays for theatre have been performed in both professional and community settings. Several of his plays for young people are published by Oxford University Press, as are three of his four novels for young people. His poetry appears widely in print and online magazines, and he is the author of four poetry collections.


Featured Publication – Eighty Four anthology, Curated by Helen Calcutt

Our featured publication for June is Eighty Four: Poems on Male Suicide, Vulnerability, Grief and Hope, curated by Helen Calcutt, published by Verve Poetry Press.

“Eighty Four is a new anthology of poetry on the subject of male suicide in aid of CALM.

Curated by poet Helen Calcutt, the anthology features a host of male and female voices sharing their experiences of suicide, mental health, or grief – from those who have been on the brink of suicide, to those who have lost a loved one, or been moved more generally by the campaign. It is both an uncensored exposure of truths, as well as a celebration of the strength and courage of those willing to write and talk about their experiences, using the power of language to openly address and tackle an issue that directly affects a million people every year.” Verve Poetry Press



A Dream

You were on the river, heading away downstream,
your powerful shoulders working the paddle –
dip, pull, lift, dip, pull – each stoke a perfect slice
through the black water, that gathered and ruckled
about the blade – lift, dip, pull –

as in the time we were on the river together,
that autumn morning of mist drifting up through
the highbanked trees and the fine rain that soaked
our clothes and skin and hair and made us happy.
A good time. The two of us together on the river.

Now you were alone and it was night.
I was leaning on the windowsill, looking out
and if you had turned you would have seen me there,
a ghost face at the glass haunting your leaving.
You did not look back. All your concentration

strained towards the journey you were making
and I was powerless to stop you, just as I was powerless
to turn away from watching. No call of mine
would bring you back. For payment, the river
had taken my voice, and I was forbidden to enter

where you were going.

David Calcutt


The decision room

There’s a deep frost, salt-crisp, and if I lick it
I’ll taste the very end of the night before,
when you shut your front door, went upstairs
to where there was only just enough air left for
one breath and only just enough time to decide.

And somewhere in that pitch-dark space
where your breath finished in your lungs
you shaped the beginning of your end.

It is your pre-jump. Your vault. You step from
your body, two foot from where my bed is now,
without the slightest hope of a second chance ‒
leave it behind like a moon blighted by clouds.

You tugged open every drawer and they stuttered
on rough wooden runners, hung lopsided and you
pulled sweater after sweater, shirt after shirt, until
deciding what to die in became impossible.

It is 5am when the police come. Ice-white fields
aren’t yet disturbed, nothing creaks.
The doorbell’s shrill is a terrible wrong.

I’m thinking about the coldness of morgues
and have so many clothes to keep me warm ‒
a shoddy dropped mess of them, a pulled out,
thrown down, skinless you.

Most times I remember the whole of you, but
sometimes I can’t help remembering how far you fell.

Abegail Morley


An incident with a train

The local news will describe this as an incident with a train,
because no-one wants to read what really happens
when a solitary human being collides with that velocity
of despair. Official statements will be performed as
preformed – with intent to still. Stress the fullness of investigation,
the minimised disruption to your commute. There will
be no dwelling on the life or the death of it. The convulsing
mother, degraded to salt. The junior police officer
fighting back puke, weighing alternative career options
against the chances of promotion and a desk.
The trembling, day-glo railway worker who yells
at the edging crows, fuck off, fuck OFF. Throwing
stones to ward them from the spoils:

it’s hard, even at the best of times,
to look solemn in a hi-vis vest. It’s hard to hold together.

Paul Howarth


Seven Senryu in Memory of Brian Karr Harter (1969-1987)


stepping up to the casket my noisy heartbeat


my reflection huge in the funeral parlor mirror


nearing his gravestone
the letters begin to blur—
January fog


remembering his suicide
winter hardens
the soil


visiting the graves
my legs sink
in deepening snow


remembering his suicide—
……stepping slowly
……across the moonlit bridge


remembering his suicide all these acorns

Carrie Etter


The Eighty Four anthology is available to buy from the Verve Poetry Press website, in aid of CALM.

Someone is speaking – David Calcutt

Someone is speaking

Someone is speaking out of the willow.
It’s a voice that doesn’t quite fit, a thin,
loose, high-pitched rattle, like a cough
that won’t clear. Others on the lake are
testing their instruments, trying them for size,
pumping, wheezing, shaking them free of
weed and grit. Squeezebox voices that grate
the nerves of the still-sleeping inhabitants
of bank and ditch, making them uneasy,
bringing bad dreams. Something stirring
down there in its bed of thick mud, something
poking about among the boatwrecks and
drownings, something unsettling that clouds
the water with an old longing, an ache that
can’t be eased. Rat’s face, hooked jaw,
the endless, empty, gaping throat. But still
that voice from the willow goes on, hesitant,
but more persistent now, like an attempt
at good fortune against all the odds, and
its notes strike a spark on the hard flint of
the water, shooting a thin line of flame across,
and somehow it lifts, and somehow it takes off,
with a cry like pain, and big wings thumping
towards the hard-won flight.


David Calcutt is a playwright, poet and fiction writer, the author of many plays for theatre and radio, five books of poetry and four novels for young people. His latest poetry collection is “The last of the light is not the last of the light” published by Fair Acre Press. He is currently working on two new plays with Midland Actors Theatre.

Sunrise on Midsummer Morning – David Calcutt

Sunrise on Midsummer Morning
A full moon falling, the sky lit
with last night’s charred and crumbling embers

across the field, thin spills of misty light

visiting spirits haunt the hedges
or try a cry in the canal’s bandaged ear

dung reeks and steams, a horse’s hoof strikes home

and out of the trees the great bird rises
wings spread and beating the sky into flame

and the great egg of the world is hatched

with an outflung shout and tumble of voices
many and many, song of all songs.


Later on oak’s shoulder
an owl puts on a mask of light

and the big mothers with their babies
stand among thistles and stare.


David Calcutt is a playwright, poet and novelist. He is the author of four novels and three collections of poetry. His plays have appeared in the theatre and on BBC radio. He lives in Walsall in the West Midlands.